Few guitarists can say they helped create a genre. In 1982, after punk rock had peaked, R.E.M. released its debut EP, Chronic Town, a collection of jangly guitar pop that helped make the band’s home of Athens, Georgia, the epicenter of the burgeoning “college rock” scene. With his intricate arrangements on songs like “Pretty Persuasion,” from 1984’s Reckoning (not to mention the instantly recognizable mandolin on the band’s biggest hit, 1991’s “Losing My Religion”), Buck influenced countless other guitarists in alternative and folk music circles. Then in 1994, the band released Monster, a greasy collection of rock and roll fueled by Buck’s feedback-laden Les Paul. “We wanted to get away from who we were,” he said in the album’s twenty-fifth anniversary edition liner notes. They did, and it was divisive among fans, but greatness arrives via taking risks, and Buck has achieved it, one power chord at a time.
Susan Tedeschi And Derek Trucks
You could call Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks the First Couple of Guitar Royalty. Trucks is, of course, the savant, joining the Allman Brothers Band in 1999 when he was only twenty while fronting his own band. Tedeschi, a Massachusetts native and Berklee College of Music grad, had her own successful solo career before pairing up with Trucks, first as life partners in 2001, then forming the Tedeschi Trucks Band in 2010. Along with lead vocal duties, Tedeschi adds subtle interplay while her husband wails away, but don’t sleep on her guitar chops: Check out the band’s cover of Bobby Bland’s “I Pity the Fool” and watch her noodle on her Gibson as the song unfolds before she rips into a searing solo. Trucks sports a massive grin as he eggs her on before the two meet for a crushing finale.
Gary Clark Jr.
Lone Star Original
An Austin native, Gary Clark Jr. is the latest in the pantheon of Texas blues legends, following in the steps of Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker, and Stevie Ray Vaughan. He was impressive from the jump: The late longtime Austin club owner Clifford Antone gave him his first gig when Clark was a blues-obsessed fifteen-year-old. But over the course of three albums, he has proved to be a singular artist, deftly incorporating funk, soul, and even hip-hop influences into his arsenal of riffs. The blues remains front and center, though, and Clark is doing his part to carry the mantle: He’s hard at work on his fourth album, which will undoubtedly bring more fireworks coming from his Gibson Epiphone than a Fourth of July blowout.
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